Career Clinic

Q: I am a team leader in a learning disabilities team and would like to involve my service users more meaningfully in the recruitment of our care staff. Do you have any suggestions?

Too often service users are involved almost as an afterthought and without any real idea of their role in the recruitment process, or what they would hope to get out of the experience. If this is not to be a token gesture, the preparation needs to happen when you are not recruiting.

A good starting point is to enlist a pool of service users from a range of backgrounds and needs who are willing to be involved. They will need training to ensure they understand the part they will play, and issues such as confidentiality and objectivity.

Training could also include talking through a standard list of questions to explore the experience and personal qualities needed to do the job well, and discussion of what would constitute a good/average/poor response, so that marks can be awarded and candidates can be compared.

In some cases they may need some support from an advocate or carer so that they can participate fully – although the advocate’s or carer’s view will not be included in the decision-making.

Applicants should be made aware that service users will be involved. And this involvement should start as soon as there is a vacancy and continue through the shortlisting process until the appointment is made and the recruit starts in the job. To this end, it may be useful for service users to learn about the vacant role by shadowing others in the team so that they have a good idea of the skills they will be looking for in candidates.

A scoring system for applicants is an easy way for service users and staff on the interview panel to compare views on each candidate. These scores can then be used to help make the final decision. As the ultimate decision will be down to staff on the panel, the scoring system will allow them to check their choice against the service users’ views to filter out any major anomalies.

When your service users have built up some experience and confidence, you may find that they also have very valuable suggestions to make in how to improve your existing process. It’s also worth noting that service users should be paid for their contribution.

Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant

A: We have been involving service users in the recruitment process for several months and have found it a positive experience. My top tips are: ensure service users have access to the relevant information avoid jargon throughout the process and finally, hold meetings at times that are convenient for service users – and their carers – and not just the professionals.

Name and address withheld

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I’m about to leave my job as a social worker in a local authority and move to a neighbouring council. I’ve got a few things that I’d like to get off my chest in my exit interview, mainly about my immediate line manager and his management skills, or lack of them. Colleagues fear speaking out in case of repercussions, and I’d like to do this for them. But is it likely to backfire? Could my reference be withdrawn or changed? Or could my words somehow get back to my new or old place of work?

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